How To Remove Smell From Shoes: 12 Hacks To Remove Shoe Odour

It’s happened to all of us: as much as we’d hope otherwise, a stinky smell emanates from your running shoes or workout sneakers. 

And, whether it’s just the beginnings of an unpleasant odour or a full-on stench that could clear a room, you realize it’s time to look into how to remove the smell from shoes.

The good news is that there are several fairly simple home remedies and Shoe odour-eliminator products you can try when you’re looking into how to get the smell out of shoes, most of which are surprisingly effective.

Signs of Bacteria 

Even shoes with ample ventilation and mesh panels tend to hold on to some stink following your run. And that rancid smell is actually more than just an odour. 

What some people don’t know is that the actual smell is bacteria, and it’s living inside your socks, shoes, and on your feet. 

Not only is it important to get rid of that nasty smell that’s on your running shoes, but it’s also imperative that you kill the pesky bacteria living in your shoes. If not, that bacteria could lead to infection over time.

How it is Tested and What Shoe Odor Eliminator Works

To gauge the effectiveness of these odour eliminators, we had to get a little smelly. But it has to be smart about how we did it. 

To consistently replicate stinky running shoes without risking exposure to harmful bacteria like Staphylococcus. 

They found the answer in a cheese called Bavarian Limburger. 

It’s one of the most pungent varieties out there. However, that’s not the only reason they chose it: While body odour has many sources, one key player is Brevibacterium linens, a rod-shaped organism found on human skin that makes feet stink. 

In a kind of gross—yet cool—coincidence, this same bacteria works to ferment Limburger, which helps explain why it really does smell quite a bit like a sweaty foot.

A total of 23 odour eliminators—pods, balls, pouches, powders, and sprays were tested. To simulate a hot and sweaty shoe post-run, we warmed Limburger cheese in a microwave and let it sit out to work up a potent stink. 

Next, they placed individual 60-gram wedges inside airtight Ziploc bags with one of the odour-eliminating contenders. And then waited. 

After about four hours, and again after 24 hours, we opened the bags and took a whiff, comparing them to the smell of an untreated piece of bagged Limburger as the control. 

The products below are the products that did both the best job at minimizing cheesy aromas and, in the case of the inserts and pods, were well-made.

  • Hex Deodorizing Spray

A do-it-all “Febreze for Runners”—we’ve used it on pretty much anything we’ve managed to get sweaty. (That includes not only our socks, shoes, tech tees, and running shorts but also our car seats, foam rollers, and couch cushions.) 

Since activewear fabrics typically use super tightly-woven threads, Hex designed its formula specifically to penetrate those stubborn fibres that really trap stink. 

Based on our testing, we found it starts working quickly and also helps keep new odours away for longer periods.

  • 10 Seconds Shoe Disinfectant and Deodorizer

This top-performing spray not only works fast—knocking out mould and bacteria like MRSA in just ten seconds—but it also smells really good. 

Our testers noted that it completely eliminated the odour of the cheese without adding the scent of chemicals.

  • GearHalo Sports Deodorizer Pods

These amazing little bean bags received top marks from every one of our testers. Since the beads are activated by heat, we suggest tossing them in your shoes while they’re still toasty from a run for the best results. 

Even at room temperature, Gear Halo’s pouches wicked moisture eliminated nearly all stink and smelled clean and fresh.

  • Rocket Pure Natural Deodorizer Spray

If you’re put off by harsh chemicals, this formula from Rocket Pure draws on a half-dozen natural agents, like alcohol derived from organic cane sugar, citrus extracts, and cedarwood oil, to inhibit bacterial growth and moisturize your feet. 

  • Foot Sense Natural Shoe Deodorizer Powder

There’s no denying that traditional powders can be messy. But Foot Sense uses an arrowroot-based, talc-free formula that’s safe, effective, and smells great—so we didn’t mind if some spilt outside of our shoes. 

Since it’s made without toxic chemicals, you can shake it on your feet outdoors or over the bathtub without worry to minimize clean-up time.

It’s not as powerful as some of the potent sprays we’ve tested, so you’ll likely need to reapply more frequently, but we loved this powder’s supreme ability to eliminate the excess moisture, as well as its lemony-lavender aroma.

  • FunkAway Odor Eliminator Spray

FunkAway does a great job of not just covering up smells but eliminating them with its OM Complex formula, which traps odour molecules and breaks them down. 

While this spray made quick work of the cheese smell in testing, it had an almost overpowering aroma.

How To Prevent Your Shoes From Smelling Bad

If your shoes already stink, you might be inclined to skip down to learn how to get the bad smell out of shoes, but it’s helpful to learn how to make shoes not smell in the first place.

Once you learn how to remove the smell from shoes, you can practice these prevention strategies to keep them from getting stinky all over again.

One of the best ways to prevent your shoes from becoming malodorous is to always wear socks when you wear your shoes.

You want your socks to be breathable and moisture-wicking to help prevent sweat buildup while you work out.

The socks will act as a barrier between your foot and the shoe to trap and absorb the moisture from your feet before it penetrates the shoe. 

It’s much easier to toss a pair of socks into the laundry after every single use than it is to clean your shoes every time you take them off. That point is key, though— make sure you are washing your socks after every single use.

One final prevention strategy is to practice good foot hygiene.

Remove your socks and shoes as soon as possible after a workout to prevent the sweat from permeating into the shoes and promoting bacterial growth.

Wash your feet regularly and dry them thoroughly before you put on socks.

Allow your feet some time to breathe without socks and shoes every day, and if you notice signs and symptoms of fungal infections like athlete’s foot, start treating your feet right away with over-the-counter products like Tinactin or essential oils like tea tree oil.

Finally, your shoes will stink if they get wet. If you run in the rain or they otherwise get really wet, stuff them with newspaper after use to soak up any moisture. 

Remove and change the newspaper every few hours, depending on how wet your sneakers are. 

Otherwise, use a shoe drier any time your shoes get wet.

12 DIY Hacks To Remove Bad Shoe Odors

Wash Them

Some sneakers are machine washable, so if you can toss them in the washing machine with some detergent, you can easily get rid of any bad smell.

To prevent shrinkage, don’t use hot water, and dry them by stuffing them with newspaper rather than putting them in the drier. 

Use Baking Soda

Baking soda is one of the tried-and-true ways to remove odour from shoes. It is a natural deodorizer that absorbs odours and bacteria. 

The simplest way to use baking soda to remove the smell from running shoes or other sneakers or boots is to just sprinkle it inside on top of the insole. 

You can also lift up the insole (if it’s removable) and sprinkle some under it as well.

Leave the shoes to sit for 24 hours.

The next day, you can tap the shoe on the side of your trash to eliminate excess powder or use your vacuum cleaner to suck it out.

Alternatively, you can make a shoe odour eliminator sachet.

Grab a coffee filter and spoon a couple of tablespoons of baking soda into the centre.

You can even add a few drops of essential oil (like lemon or orange) if you want to get fancy.

Gather the edges of the coffee filter, twist them off, and secure it closed with a rubber band. 

Then stick one sachet on each stinky shoe and leave them overnight to absorb the odours and bacteria.

Create a Shoe Deodorant 

You can create a shoe deodorant powder with ½ cup of cornstarch, ¼ cup of baking soda, and ¼ cup of baking powder. 

Place Your Shoes In the Sun

A completely free hack to remove odour from your shoes is to place them in the sun.

The heat and light from the sun will kill the odour-producing bacteria, leaving your shoes smelling completely neutral. 

As a bonus, any excess moisture will be evaporated, preventing future bacterial colonization (until the shoes get sweaty again).

Spray Your Shoes With Vinegar 

Vinegar has a pretty astringent smell, but acetic acid works wonders toward fighting bacteria in stinky shoes and eliminating odours.

The type of vinegar you use matters, though: use white vinegar mixed with equal parts water.

Add the solution to a spray bottle and spritz the inside of your shoes after you use them. Allow your shoes to dry by loosening the laces and tongue to promote airflow.

Before you spray the vinegar into the shoes, it helps to pre-clean your shoes by taking a damp cloth and wiping out the insides and outsides. 

Allow the shoes to dry with the vinegar solution in an aerated space for 24 hours.

Stuff Your Shoes With Soap

An easy home remedy to remove bad smells from sneakers is to stuff an unwrapped bar of soap into each shoe.

Keep the soap in the shoe for at least 24 hours.

As long as your sneakers are dry before you try this sneaker-deodorizing hack, it’s one of the simplest and most effective ways to get rid of the funk in your shoes.

Not only will the soap help kill the bacteria that cause your sneakers to smell bad, but it will also help perfume the soap with a pleasant, clean smell.

Soap is soft and porous, so the compounds will leach into the materials of your shoe wherever contact is made.

Embrace Essential Oils

Essential oils are for more than just your diffuser; they can make excellent natural deodorizers.

For example, essential oils like tea tree oil, clove oil, cinnamon oil, and cedarwood oil are not only natural deodorizers, but they also have antifungal and antibacterial properties.

Some studies have even shown that certain essential oils, such as clove oil, can significantly inhibit bacterial growth on the feet, which will eliminate bad odours in your shoes.

Other popular options for essential oils to deodorize sneakers include lemon oil, orange oil, and frankincense oil.

An added perk of using essential oils to deodorize your sneakers is that they also will impart a pleasant scent rather than just neutralizing any bad smells.

You can add several drops of your favourite essential oil into each sneaker or combine essential oils with some of the other home remedies, such as baking soda or vinegar, to boost the effectiveness of the odour-fighting strategy.

Stick Your Shoes In the Freezer

It might seem unappealing and a little bizarre to stick your smelly sneakers in the freezer, but bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments and cannot survive the harsh cold of your freezer.

Place them in a freezer bag before you put them in the freezer. Leave the shoes overnight.

Put Kitty Litter In Your Shoes 

Kitty litter is highly absorbent and will draw moisture out of your shoes. In doing so, it can help neutralize odours.

Add Lemon Peel to Your Shoes 

Lemon or lime peels can help remove odours from your shoes. The acids and oils are antibacterial, and the citrus will perfume the shoes with a pleasant smell.

Make a Sachet of Cloves 

Toss a few cloves into a coffee filter, tie it off, and then stick the sachet in your shoes.

Make Tea Bag Shoe Deodorizers

Black tea contains tannins that kill bacteria. Boil the tea bags for a couple of minutes in water and allow them to cook completely. 

Press out excess moisture and then place the cool tea bags in your shoes.

Remove the tea bags after 24 hours and dab up any excess liquid.



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